…today at the GVA race in Loenhout.
Here I am at the back, I got the biggest number, it does not mean anything.
Photos and video do not do the course justice; it was fucking brutal!
A typically long road start diving directly into a sloggy, muddy course. I had a good start. Elbows and all, moved up a bunch of spots within reach of Tonkin and Page.
Then we hit the long mud stretch. This long, flat, wide open field of sucky, sticky, slow, grassy mud. I could power through the first 20 seconds of it then I started struggling, the mud is kicking you (read: me) everywhere and you are just mashing on the pedals in your easiest gear, rear wheel spinning everywhere; bike going nowhere. After a minute of this you hit the first pallet bridge with zero speed. When I was watching the U23 race I wondered why they were riding so slowly up the bridges.
I was riding poorly. Even for me! The level of fitness over here is one thing to contend with but, the mud skill seen today was humbling. Back in the states a race like this is where I would shine. The shittier and the harder the better.
But I got served at the Azencross.
We have our good days and our bad days. Yesterday I just felt pathetic. Like a moron on a bike.
As we shot back out onto a road section during the chaos of the first lap - CRACK! I smacked a curb with my front wheel. It was a fine line for the air pressure yesterday: 1 BAR? 1.8 BAR? I knew that curb was there, I made note of it during warm up. But, I ran sketchy low pressure to help with the mud cornering.
It did not help.
Needless to say, I was pretty deflated right after the mishap on the first lap. I toasted a wheel, and I just lost focus.
The crowds are vicious. They love to see crashes and mishaps. They only seem to cheer for Nys or whoever happens to be at the front. They applaud drama and love to heckle. After the first lap, I was still ahead of a bunch of riders and once I started struggling in muddy sections the fans were hollering and berating my slow ass. Old men with cigars and little kids are hurtling insults and support, “go faster! Crash!” do something exciting!
Thomas Frischneckt rolled up to me and I rode with him for about half a lap when this Palmans kid catches up and rolls through us. “Hmmm, Niels must have had a mechanical in the first few laps.” I am thinking…
Niels Albert easily had a full minute on the rest of the race at that point. No one cheered when he went through. It was like a silent reverent hush. This kid was excelling in the most brutal, power sucking conditions. He just dropped all of the worlds top riders. It was awesome.
Once he lapped us, Frischi dropped me on the road section and when I had to walk up the pallet bridge after running the mud, I called it a day.
I was getting in my own way. I felt disappointed and embarrassed. But, that is racing I guess. Some days you are on fire…
To my credit, I did not stack it anywhere. The bmx whoops were sketchy and the bridges were hairball. The race pushed me past my comfort zone and exposed me to a brutal level of skill.
That is why I am over here.
PS: If you are bored you can watch me at USA Masters nationals go from the back to the middle to the front.